ALBUM REVIEW: Saxon – Inspirations – Silver Lining Music


With no less than twenty-two studio albums behind them, NWOBHM legends Saxon are back again but with something a little different this time. Instead of just rummaging around in the attic for an old live recording, or throwing together a contractually obliged “Best Of…”, Barnsley’s finest have taken their time during lockdown to produce something a little more imaginative. Looking to the past, the band has recorded Inspirations (Silver Lining Music/Militia Guard), a collection of songs by artists who made an impact on them at the start of their musical journey. Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Wounded Cross – Our Future Is Dead


In existence for just three years, the life of Midlands act Wounded Cross was extinguished before its time. Unable to release anything while they were still a going concern, the band’s first (and only) demo recordings have finally been mixed and released onto YouTube three years after their split.Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Firewind – Firewind


The ninth album from Greek power metallers Firewind finds the band introducing their latest vocalist Herbie Langhans, the former Sinbreed frontman replacing fellow German Henning Basse earlier this year. And the eponymously titled Firewind (AFM Records) is a fine way to get things rolling with their new frontman.Continue reading


Biff Byford Updates Fans on His Health, Saxon Tour Dates, and Upcoming Solo Single


Biff Byford of Saxon has been home recovering from an emergency heart operation that put his band Saxon off the road, has given one of his customary Friday updates on Twitter. Biff is making progress on his recovery and hopes to start exercising in December. On the music front, Saxon is booking more “big shows” in addition to their previously announced career retrospective headline shows in the United Kingdon and Germany. Biff will also be releasing a new solo single on December 13th., the title track from his upcoming solo album The School of Hard Knocks. He is also putting together a solo band to tour behind the album. Great news all around Biff! Continue reading


Saxon Frontman Biff Byford is Recovering From Open Heart Surgery


Heavy Metal legend and Saxon frontman Biff Byford is recovering after undergoing an emergency triple bypass surgery last Monday, September 23rd. A heart bypass surgery, or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, is used to improve blood flow to the heart. A surgeon uses blood vessels taken from another area of the body to bypass the damaged arteries. The term triple bypass refers to the number of coronary arteries bypassed in the procedure. In other words, a triple bypass means three coronary arteries are bypassed. Biff posted on social media to offer an update on his health. Saxon was forced to postpone all its previously announced 2019 shows so that Byford could undergo the procedure. His post-op recovery period will last into 2020. Continue reading


Saxon’s Biff Byford Needs Immediate Heart Surgery, Band Postpones Remaining 2019 Shows


Legendary British Heavy Metal band Saxon, who was prepping for their 40th-anniversary tour, has had to postpone all remaining tour dates in 2019. Frontman Biff Byford needs immediate surgery for a heart problem and his and his post-op recovery period will last into 2020. Biff sent a message to fans to update them. Some dates will be rescheduled and some will need to be canceled. Details below. Continue reading


Duel – Valley Of Shadows


It’s a soulful, heavy trip with Texan quartet Duel. Formed largely from the ashes of Groove rockers Scorpion Child, new album Valley Of Shadows (Heavy Psych Sounds) is their third album in three years but despite the prolific nature, there remains a certain impact from the tracks on offer here.Continue reading


Saxon – Thunderbolt


You have to wonder how Saxon do it. While some bands can take four or five years, or in some cases even longer, to release new music, Saxon have never taken more than three, and the quality rarely dips. They might only be simple songs with simple structures, but it’s not very often you can listen to a Saxon album and not be able to remember the choruses to at least three songs after just one or two listens.Continue reading


Saxon – Battering Ram


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I was thirteen years old, staying up late and listening to The Friday Rock Show on an old transistor radio the first time I heard Saxon. My parents were sleeping in the next room, so clearly not wanting to be disturbed by my latest, and somewhat “interesting” choice in music (a school friend had only introduced me to Metal a few weeks before) had told me to “keep it down”. A lot. So, with the volume knob set infuriatingly low, I did my best to listen to Tommy Vance (RIP) introducing the band’s latest single, ‘Do It All For You’, and was completely blown away by their singer. By god, she sounded fantastic!

Wait, what?

Yes, thanks to the combination of a lack of volume and a tinny 3” mono speaker, I was convinced Saxon were fronted by a girl. It came as quite a shock a few weeks later, while flicking through the pages of a popular, then bi-weekly music magazine, to discover their singer was actually a big northern bloke called Biff Byford. Okay, his hair was ridiculously bouncy and he wore skintight spandex leggings, but he was most definitely NOT a lady.

In more recent years, the hair may have become a little less fluffy and the waistlines might be a little larger, but the band have never strayed (too) far from their original path. After the rather lightweight Destiny (EMI) in 1988, the band released a sequence of enjoyable, if somewhat unspectacular albums, but 2004’s Lionheart (SPV) appeared to give them a new lease of life. Every release since then has maintained the same high standard and that trend continues with latest offering, Battering Ram (UDR).

Kicking things off in emphatic style, the bruising title track is quickly followed by ‘The Devil’s Footprint’, a song based on a story from 1855 where a number of townships believed cloven hoof prints found in the snow one morning belonged to the devil. After briefly tricking me into thinking my computer had developed a stutter, the stop-start riff of ‘Queen of Hearts’ quickly transforms into one of the album’s finest moments, and while ‘Destroyer’ may not be the most original of titles, it’s certainly appropriate as Biff attempts to demolish his vocal cords at the song’s climax.

By this point, I’m starting to wonder if Battering Ram contains any bad tracks at all. ‘Hard and Fast’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ answer my question with a resounding no, but things do drop off a little with ‘Stand Your Ground’, which for all its speed and neat little middle section, doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘Top Of the World’ immediately steadies the (barely) wobbling ship anyway, and is followed by the almost Sabbath-esque crawl of ‘To The End’. David Bower of Derbyshire NWOBHMers Hell lends his considerable voice talents to six minute ‘The Kingdom of the Cross’, a darkly atmospheric song about the First World War, while “bonus track” ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’ rounds things off a little strangely. A throwaway drinking song which sounds a little out of place coming after such a brooding, melancholic masterpiece.

With producer Andy Sneap at the helm, the album sounds fantastic. The guitars are razor sharp, the drums are big, the bass is clear, and Biff’s vocals ring out as powerfully as they have ever done.

Now, if only they’d go back to doing videos featuring desert roads and big American trucks…

 

8.0/10

GARY ALCOCK